Plans by EPA and Sierra Club to cripple coal industry exposed by FOIA Documents Obtained as a Result of E&E Legal FOIA Request
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Washington, D.C. — A 2012 Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request filed by the Energy & Environment Legal Institute (E&E Legal), under its former name, the American Tradition Institute, has produced several hundred documents affirming the uncomfortably close working relationship between the current U.S. Environmental Agency (EPA) and activist left-wing environmental groups in their effort to make abundant energy resources, particularly coal, much more scarce in America.
These records come in a series of productions in litigation spawned by two specific FOIA requests — a lawsuit filed after an EPA FOIA specialist admitted she and her colleague were instructed to do no work on the requests, as EELI counsel Chris Horner attested in a sworn affidavit. Mostly e-mails between EPA top officials and the Sierra Club, the records illustrate how certain EPA employees with backgrounds working for green pressure groups serve as liaisons to those groups in advancing a shared agenda. Other documents affirm the close advisory role the pressure groups play in key EPA actions, like EPA’s recently published New Source Performance Standards (NSPS) for new coal-fired plants.
This collaboration takes place in many forms: emails providing, e.g., a list of coal plants the green groups insist any EPA standards block from coming or staying on-line, meetings at EPA and at the green groups’ offices where EPA comes to brief them, frequent conference calls, and at the Starbucks at Washington’s J.W. Marriott, across the street from EPA.
The latter is reminiscent of the Caribou Coffee revelations about this most transparent, White House, in history arranging off-site meetings with other lobbyists to avoid signing them in to the building (see, e.g., New York Times reportage of this subterfuge, here.)
The level of coordination in these documents is shocking, showing, for example, Sierra Club strategizing with EPA’s former green group activists, and other senior Obama appointees, about killing the coal and coal-fired electricity industries, even sharing a joke in one particular email saying EPA administrator Gina McCarthy had her “pants on fire” when assuring those parties they would remain viable under EPA’s regulations.
The e-mails show the central players to be two EPA officials who worked in the agency’s policy office at the time of the e-mails, Michael Goo (former legislative director of the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) who left EPA for a senior Department of Energy post), Alex Baron, and EPA senior counsel Joe Goffman (a former EDF lawyer). They all work closely with John Coequyt, who heads the Sierra Club’s “Beyond Coal” campaign.
In one e-mail Coequyt sent to Goo and Barron, he said, “Attached is a list of plants that companies said were shelved because of uncertainty around GHG [greenhouse gas] regulations. If a standard is set that these plants could meet, there is a small chance that they [sic] company could decide to revive the proposal.” Coequyt is clearly signaling that that if the EPA sets achievable standards, proposed power plants on hold as the new standards are developed could ultimately be built, which is contrary to his group’s agenda.
Last week, the EPA finally released their New Source Performance Standards, four months after first announcing them.. The American Coalition for Clean Coal Energy (ACCCE), which plans to take the EPA to court over the new regulations, questioned what EPA was up to during those four months that it took the agency to post its NSPS.
Numerous other emails show close collaboration on EPA public hearings to generate support for the rule.
“ACCCE asks a very relevant question, if one that EPA’s own mail answers,” added Horner, the lawyer handling the lawsuit. “After reviewing the e-mails between one of the chief outside organizations in the war on coal, and their allies in the EPA, it’s clear that this process was one of trying to develop standards to kill the future of coal in America. And being less than honest about it, even according to their own allies in candid moments.”
Released documents as a result of E&E Legal’s FOIA request include:
· CCS PERMIT NEED, SO2 ROLLOUT.pdf
· COLLABORATION ON PUBLIC HEARINGS.pdf
· DOING EACH OTHERS HOMEWORK.pdf
· EPA COMING TO GREENS TO BRIEF.pdf
· GENERAL RE CLOSENESS: ALIGNMENT.pdf
· GREEN GROUPS AS PRIORITY PARTNERS.pdf
· MORE ON CCS SO2 GHGs.pdf
· MUST KILL COAL PRODUCTIONS.pdf
· PARTNERS ON CAIR: TRANSPORT.pdf
· SIERRA BARRON GOO.pdf
The Energy & Environment Legal Institute (E&E Legal) is a 501(c)(3) organization engaged in strategic litigation, policy research, and public education on important energy and environmental issues. Primarily through its petition litigation and transparency practice areas, E&E Legal seeks to correct onerous federal and state policies that hinder the economy, increase the cost of energy, eliminate jobs, and do little or nothing to improve the environment.